What I bought, read, or otherwise consumed – November 2016

johnnyred

Let’s check out some of the trades and the two prose books I managed to finish in November!

persianfirePersian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West by Tom Holland. 418 pgs, Doubleday Books, 2005.

Years ago, I bought a Tom Holland novel called Lord of the Dead. It was about Byron turning into a vampire, and it was awful. I mean, seriously bad. So why would I get another Tom Holland book? Well, this is non-fiction, for one, so I thought it might be better, and it’s also about the Greco-Persian Wars, which are a time in history that I knew very little about beyond the big names of the day. I had read some of Herodotus, but not all of it, and it’s always better to read interpretations of such old texts anyway, because they’re usually tough to hash out (Herodotus, as far as most scholars can tell, was fairly reliable, but he doesn’t use dates or synthesize other histories, although he does write quite a bit about the rise of Persia, which Holland does as well). Persian Fire delves deeply into the history of Persia, Sparta, and Athens, which makes it a much more balanced view of the years 490-479 BCE than pro-Greek sources or histories. Persia was a marvelous empire, a multicultural conglomeration whose rules – Cyrus, Darius, and Xerxes, most notably – tended to respect local customs and even rulers as long as they paid sufficient tribute to the King of Kings back in Susa. Holland does point out how important it was for Western history that the Persians didn’t conquer Greece, but he doesn’t oversell it, as a Persian victory wouldn’t have been the total disaster that many propagandists have claimed in the 2500 years since.

Holland writes with an engaging, breezy style – he’s a good popular historian (he writes on various historical topics, which means he’s good at a lot of things but not an expert in this particular field) – and he is able to bring together many different sources, including some archaeological records (popular historians tend to be prejudiced in favor of written sources, which has started to shift over the past 15-20 years, it seems, because archaeological records are often just as, if not more important than written sources), to create a good portrait of the vast world of the fifth century BCE, in which the Greeks played a tiny part. He makes the point very well that Darius’s and Xerxes’s Western expeditions were important to the rulers but did not wreck their empires, and the only reason Xerxes never came back after his defeat at Salamis is because other parts of the empire rose in revolt and he dedicated himself to stamping them out (which he did; the Persian Empire lasted longer than Athenian democracy, after all), so while Marathon, Salamis, and Plataea were important to the Greeks, they weren’t that important to the Persians. It’s an interesting idea that isn’t new to Holland, but it’s still fascinating to read an account that shows the celebrations from the Athenian side, the hallowing of Thermopylae from the Spartan side, and the relative ambivalence from the Persian side. The propaganda of the times claimed that Athens set an example for the rest of the Persian world and the subject peoples rose up against their overlords, but that’s just not true.

Holland does a good job explaining why Sparta turned into SPARTA and why Thermopylae was so important to them, even as he debunks the myth of the “300” (which, again, is not something unique to Holland). He also does a nice job explaining why Athens turned to democracy even though it was completely unprecedented in the history of the world – it wasn’t, as you might expect, some high-minded idealistic experiment, but a cynical way for Cleisthenes to break the power of the family clans who ruled Athens and also to thwart Cleomenes, the Spartan king who was angling to reduce Athens to a client state. Cleisthenes was simply taking Solon’s ideas to their logical extreme, and Holland does a good job showing this and how he was able to succeed. He also does a nice job with how Sparta was uniquely qualified to hold the pass at the Hot Gates while Themistocles was uniquely qualified to block the straits between Euboea and the mainland, an action which had as much to do with checking Xerxes’s advance into Greece as the Spartans’ defense of Thermopylae did (but which doesn’t resonate quite as much because the navy actually managed to survive). The accounts of Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis, and Plataea are well done, giving us a large-scale view of the battles while still managing to focus on individual stories, such as that of Aristodemus, who had missed Thermopylae because he had an eye infection and was disgraced because of it. Despite acting “un-Spartan” – charging recklessly into battle at Plataea – he managed to redeem his family name by dying heroically. Holland writes well about a lot of the people involved, and it makes these characters more real, especially given that so many of them, like people today, fell from grace when the fighting was over – Themistocles, most notably, was driven out by the Athenian mob for getting too high on his horse, and died in service to Xerxes’s son and successor, Artaxerxes. It was an odd end for the man who, more than anyone else, preserved the freedom of Greece and democracy.

Obviously, with a remove of 2500 years and because the Persians didn’t leave as many written records as the Greeks, Holland’s account is peppered with small gaps and leaps of logic, but that’s true of many histories, and nothing Holland speculates about is too ridiculous. He does, weirdly, give credence to the idea that Philippides actually saw Pan while running from Sparta to Athens before Marathon, but that’s only a brief moment in the book, and if Philippides was hallucinating, that’s to be expected, I guess. But Holland does a good job with the story, and Persian Fire is a good read – it never bogs down, it’s well-sourced, and it tells a wider story of the Greco-Persian Wars than you might get from a specifically pro-Western source. Holland might be a lousy novelist, but he’s a pretty good popular historian!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

nailbitervol5Nailbiter volume 5: Bound by Blood by Joshua Williamson (writer), Mike Henderson (artist), Adam Guzowski (colorist), John J. Hill (letterer), and Rob Levin (editor). $14.99, 121 pgs, FC, Image.

Nailbiter is the lesser of Williamson’s two current Image series – Birthright is more fun and generally better – but this series is still pretty keen, and Williamson’s twisty plot is fun to follow. This volume is generally focused on Warren and Alice, as Warren discovers that Alice is his daughter and Alice discovers some of the more disturbing things about Buckaroo, Oregon, the town of the serial killers. She’s been worried since the beginning of the series about turning into a killer, and this collection is crucial to that fear and what she does about it. Warren continues to be an interesting fellow, as well, as he decides that Alice needs to learn more about the town and why it produces so many killers, even as he tries to deal with his new, unwanted knowledge about Alice’s parentage. Of course, given that this is a horror comic, there are plenty of corpses littering the pages (the book has never really given a good answer to why anyone stays in Buckaroo, and after a massacre in this one, that question becomes more relevant), a fun cameo by Cassie and Vlad of Hack/Slash, and good old-fashioned chases through woods and darkened hallways. As with every volume, we get some answers, some more questions, and Williamson continues to end things on good cliffhangers to keep people coming back. I thought the book was ending soon, so maybe the next volume is the last one? (Now I can’t find anything online about it ending, but I could have sworn I saw it somewhere) Either way, Williamson is revealing stuff about the town, and while it’s a bit too early to tell if it’s a good answer or not, it’s still fairly intriguing.

There are issues with Nailbiter, of course. Williamson keeps the focus on the plot, so the characters are as well-developed as they might be, and the events in Buckaroo don’t seem to have much effect on the townspeople – I mean, a lot of people in this town die, but everyone seems to move forward with no trauma whatsoever. Henderson’s scratchy, rough artwork fits the mood and the setting very well, and he nails the gorier aspects of the book, as he and Guzowski work together to make sure the blood stands out against the drab backgrounds of rainy Oregon. But like a lot of modern comics, Williamson’s plot could easily be condensed into about half the pages, and Henderson’s layouts are expansive and uninspired – he sticks almost exclusively to quadrilateral panels, which we could believe is so when he does break out of it, it has a bigger impact, but it happens so infrequently that the staid layouts begin to overwhelm, and he generally uses simple “camera angles” to show his characters. There’s a full-page splash that doesn’t work at all, but usually, when he goes that route, it’s not bad, except that because he uses so few panels per page, the full-page and double-page splashes don’t have as much impact. This is modern comics storytelling, of course, so it’s hard to blame Williamson and Henderson, but it’s still somewhat frustrating. The story isn’t bad, but it doesn’t feel like it should already have taken 25 issues to tell. If that makes sense. Maybe it doesn’t.

Nailbiter is a good example of why waiting for the trade is a thing. I can’t imagine reading this in single issues, because it feels like it would drag. Williamson’s actual writing is pretty good, and the plot does move along, even if it’s slow. It’s an interesting horror comic that looks pretty good, and I’m invested in it, so I want to know what’s going on. But that doesn’t mean the flaws aren’t there, and while they’re not unique to this comic, this is the comic I’m writing about, isn’t it?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

cirqueamericanGirl Over Paris: The Cirque American Series by Gwenda Bond (story), Kate Leth (writer), Ming Doyle (artist), Andrew Dalhouse (colorist), Deron Bennett (letterer), and Paul Morrissey (editor). $14.95, 88 pgs, FC, Jet City Comics.

I’ve never heard of Gwenda Bond, but apparently she writes young adult fantasy novels, so good for her! (I know a woman who blogs about YA books, and I wondered if she had heard of Gwenda Bond. Turns out she has. I see this woman every so often – her kids attend the same school as one of my daughters – and the last time I saw her, I told her that I would probably never read the books she reviews, but that her blog is AMAZING. And it is, too, if you check it out a bit. But let’s not get too far off track!) So the fact that her novels provide the backdrop for this trade paperback didn’t have much effect on me. As usual, I tend to look at the creative team first when I determine if I’m going to get a comic, so I was intrigued by Kate Leth and Ming Doyle, especially Doyle, who I first saw drawing The Loneliest Astronauts for Kevin Church, for crying out loud, and of whom I’ve been a fan since. Then I checked out the description, and while Bond’s name didn’t do anything for me, the fact that this is a strange ghost story seemed pretty cool. Don’t you love it when I tell you how I choose comics to read? It’s gripping stuff, I’m sure!

Jules Maroni, the star of Bond’s novels, is the star of this comic, too, as she heads to Paris for a show – she’s a high-wire walker – after some strange events, which I assume happened in one of the novels (there are two in this particular series so far). Leth doesn’t make too big a deal about it except for one moment when her boyfriend doesn’t believe her about seeing a ghost, and she reminds him that they’ve already been through some weird stuff. That’s always a nice point in fiction – people see all kinds of weird stuff but then refuse to believe in other weird stuff, and Remy – Jules’s boyfriend, and yes, we have to suffer through four issues of someone named “Remy”* – should know better, but it doesn’t come up other than that. Leth gives us just enough for us to understand that something bad happened to Jules, and then she moves on to the main plot.

* Sorry, but Remy is just such a dumb name. I mean, yes, it reminds me of Gambit, quite possibly the worst major character in Marvel/DC history, but that’s not the only reason it’s stupid. It just is, okay?!?!?

The main plot, unfortunately, isn’t that great, and I don’t know if it’s because Bond and Leth really couldn’t change the status quo too much because the “real” story takes place in the novels or if they just didn’t have a great plot to begin with. The idea of a carnival ghost haunting a carnival is a pretty good one – there’s a definite “Phantom of the Opera” vibe going on in this book, which has to be deliberate, I think, given the Paris location – but Leth doesn’t do too much with it. Sure, it’s a YA comic, but that doesn’t mean it has to be as toothless as this comic is. The ghost isn’t really that much of a threat, and while his motivations are fine, he seems more pathetic than anything else. He threatens people but doesn’t seem to have much backing him up, and he’s defeated with remarkable ease and not much logic. Leth’s saving grace is that the characters are pretty well done – the yearning of Remy’s sister for the exotic French chick is beautifully done partly because it’s fairly subtle yet still obvious, and while it doesn’t end sadly, it’s still bittersweet. So it’s still not a bad read, even if the villain – such as he is – is kind of weak sauce.

Doyle’s art is great to see, as well. She still has some issues with action, as the figures are still a bit too stiff and the final dramatic scene is staged a bit oddly, but that’s not too big a deal. Her characters are wonderful, real-looking and full of life, so that the anger that Jules feels when Remy begins to doubt her is palpable, and the way Dita turns into a blushing schoolgirl when the object of her crush appears is terrific. Doyle, it seems (I could be wrong), uses slightly lighter inks than she has in the past, which suits the lighter tone of the book, and Dalhouse, who’s a good colorist, uses flats and rendered colors very well to add richness to the Parisian setting, good gloominess to the underground scenes, and eeriness to the ghost (who Doyle inks a bit more roughly, perhaps to show his more ragged nature). Doyle is a fine artist, and her and Dalhouse’s work on the book is a big reason to get it.

So Girl Over Paris isn’t great. It’s not bad, but it could certainly be better. I haven’t read a ton by Leth, but what I have I’ve enjoyed, so I’m not sure if this was a misstep or if Bond didn’t want to mess with her own characters too much, or what. But it’s a pleasant enough comic, with some nice parts to it that don’t add up to a whole lot. Oh well.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

johnnyredJohnny Red: The Hurricane by Garth Ennis (writer), Keith Burns (artist), Jason Wordie (colorist), Rob Steen (letterer), and Steve White (editor). $19.99, 179 pgs, FC, Titan Comics. Johnny Red created by Tom Tully and Joe Colquhoun.

Garth Ennis has always written great war stories, so it’s not surprising that he’s written another one with Johnny Red, which is a revival of a character from the late 1970s. For those of us who didn’t grow up in England in the late 1970s, Johnny Red is an interesting character – he’s English, obviously, but he ended up in Russia, fighting alongside the Soviets at Stalingrad, among other places. One of his creators, Tully, came up with the idea because the Russian front was underused in World War II fiction in the West, so he was able to highlight battles that many kids probably hadn’t heard of or known much about. Ennis, naturally, does the character proud. He begins in the present, as an internet billionaire, Tony Iverson, found the Hurricane that Johnny Red flew during the war and is getting it fixed up so it can fly again. He finds the plane’s chief mechanic, still alive in Moscow, and visits him to get the story of the plane. The mechanic, Rodimitz, tells Iverson about Johnny Red and the plane. It’s a clever way to bring the story into the present and allow Ennis to express his feelings about the way veterans are treated after wars, which he does in the most heartfelt page in the book, and we also get a more personal narrative than if it were just presented with an omniscient third-person point of view. We know Rodimitz lives, and he knows who doesn’t, but we don’t, so the tension is heightened just a bit more than if it were told another way.

So we get a gripping World War II story that takes place in the shadow of Stalingrad, as the Nazis are about to launch their attack. We get intrigue, as Soviet secret police arrive to “recruit” pilots for a secret mission and freeze Johnny out because he’s not Russian, but of course he gets involved anyway. We get the Night Witches, the female Russian pilots, because of course we do, and of course Johnny is in love with one of them. We get the German nemesis who isn’t quite as evil as your garden-variety Nazi – he’s not sympathetic as some Germans in former Ennis war stories, but he’s certainly not irredeemably evil. There’s a good deal of double-crossing, a surprise cameo, and a plot that could change the course of the war. Ennis does a great job with the story, giving us nice character beats for his main actors and making sure the tension is always high. He’s very good at that trope where we think something is over but it turns out there are a few more twists left. Everything in the book fits together nicely, so when new surprises come up, it’s very much within the realm of believability rather than sheer coincidence. It’s a gripping adventure, which, given that it’s Ennis, isn’t shocking.

Burns’s art makes the book even better, which is nice. Burns’s art, for those who’ve never seen it, is vaguely like Sean Murphy’s (although I suppose there are people who haven’t seen Murphy’s art, either!), with beautiful scratchy lines that give it a lot of aggressive, kinetic energy. His action scenes are amazing – he uses rough, thick inks throughout, and when he inks the planes, he turns them into ragged flying masterpieces of ingenuity, while the way he choreographs the fights make them almost three-dimensional. He uses a lot of panoramic pages, laying the page out so the panels stretch over two pages, which allows the action scenes to breathe a bit more and gives us a sense of speedy motion, and he never scrimps on the violence, as he shows how devastating air fighting – which is often considered “romantic” – could be. Burns shows the dire conditions that the Russians had to fight in, as well – it’s winter, of course, but even more than that, the Russians were ill-equipped to take on the Nazis, and Burns (and Ennis) are able to imply what a miracle it really was that they stood their ground at Stalingrad. It’s a terrific-looking book, and it makes the excellent story soar even more.

I haven’t read all of Ennis’s war comics, but I’ve read a fair number, and this is one of the best. It’s eight issues long, but Ennis uses every page effectively, so it never feels padded like some mini-series can. It’s intriguing, exciting, tragic, and even heartfelt. If you’ve never happened to read an Ennis war comic before, you should do yourself a favor and check this book out!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

civilwaradventuresvol2Civil War Adventures Book Two by Chuck Dixon (writer), Gary Kwapisz (artist/writer), Enrique Villagran (artist), and Esteve Polls (artist). $12.95, 157 pgs, BW, Dover Publications.

Speaking of war comics, probably the second-best writer of war comics, Chuck Dixon, has a new volume of his Civil War stories, which he produces independently with Gary Kwapisz and then they get collected by Dover. Dixon is one of the few conservative writers in comics, and his war stories often reflect that – they’re the slightest bit less heartfelt than Ennis’s, but not by much, as Dixon still respects the bonds of soldiers and how those closest to you can get you through a war or die horribly at any moment. So his stories are also violent, but they also show the human face of war very well. He doesn’t write all of the stories – Kwapisz writes a few, and Villagran draws a story about John Mosby, while Polls draws a tale about rival snipers. A few of the stories are longer than the rest – there’s a gripping tale about the campaign in West Virginia in early 1862, with several Confederates getting caught behind enemy lines and trying to get back to their unit; and one about the Union using black soldiers and the racism they faced from the North’s officers, who believed the former slaves were naturally cowardly and would run the instant the fighting started. As well as those two, there are several shorter stories illuminating various aspects of the war. Kwapisz, Villagran, and Polls are all old-school kind of artists, very solid draughtsmen without a lot of flash, and their work in black and white is stellar – Villagran’s style is slightly more cartoony than Kwapisz’s, but not by much, and all three artists fit together very well. There’s not much to say about this comic – it’s entertaining and educational, and it looks very cool. If you’re a fan of reading about war, especially the Civil War (of course, as that’s what the book is about), you should check this out. If you aren’t a fan of war comics, well, then don’t check it out!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

squirrelgirlvol4The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl volume 4: I Kissed a Squirrel and I Liked It by Ryan North (writer), Erica Henderson (artist/colorist), Jacob Chabot (artist), Tom Fowler (inker), Andy Hirsch (artist), David Malki (artist), Kyle Starks (artist), Rico Renzi (colorist), Travis Lanham (letterer), and Jennifer Grünwald (collection editor). $15.99, 104 pgs, FC, Marvel. Squirrel Girl created by Will Murray and Steve Ditko, and she’s the only one I’m listing creator credits for because this book has a LOT of guest stars!

According to my comics shoppe, the “new” Marvel isn’t selling very well. The comics that have adopted a cheekier tone and more cartoony art are driving away the long-time readers, and the store doesn’t get many of the “target” audience, meaning younger people, especially girls. I’m very curious about Marvel sales these days, because it seems that DC, on the back of “Rebirth,” has jumped ahead of Marvel for now, and we’ll see how long that lasts. I’m interested in this because I think it’s great that Marvel is trying new things, and I want it to work out (for the same reason, I’m hoping that the Hanna-Barbera comics, Young Animal, and now WildStorm comics do well for DC … but that’s a post for another day!). However … I’m not in love with a lot of the books they’re putting out. I didn’t love Howard the Duck, and I didn’t love Patsy Walker. I did like Charles Soule’s She-Hulk, but that died a fairly quick death. So I’m not sure if the books aren’t selling at my store because the old-time readers don’t want to read new things, or if the books just aren’t that great. But the sales of the “new” Marvel still fascinate me.

I’m writing this because, of all of the “new” Marvel books (“new” as in style, not that they are early in their runs, because once a Marvel book hits double-digit issue numbers, it’s instantly rebooted), Squirrel Girl continues to be absolutely delightful. It’s probably the funniest book right now from the Big Two, which is nice, and North packs every issue with not only jokes but nice insightful comments about being a superhero and especially being a superhero in the Marvel Universe. I count the Twitter-esque recaps at the beginning of each issue as part of the page count in this collection because they’re hilarious (and Tony Stark on Twitter is brilliant). North does the “blah blah blah blah and also blah” style of joke quite a bit, which could be annoying if the humor didn’t land so well. Issue #7, the first one in this collection, is the famous (?) “Choose Your Own Adventure” story (which isn’t called that for copyright reasons, I assume), and North nails it, with bizarre endings to some choices (Doreen forgets to eat and dies!), hilarious resolutions to others (Swarm becomes president), and just impressive storytelling all around (North did this before with Romeo and/or Juliet and To Be or Not To Be, so he obviously knows what he’s doing). Plus, Swarm shows up, and Swarm is always fun (although I guess we’re downplaying his Nazi-ness these days, because it just wouldn’t fit in this comic). As I am much more interested in superhero comics when the superheroes don’t actually fight, issue #8 might be my favorite, as Doreen decides to try on-line dating, and it goes about as well as you think – her friends write sample profiles for her, which are amazing, she goes on dates with horrible people (including a Sentinel), and she has the first date from Hell with Brad, who is the Sensational Character Find of 2016, if you ask me. He’s a total bro, and he’s a superhero truther, and I would read the Adventures of Brad every damned day and twice on Sundays. He’s truly amazing. Then Mole Man shows up and decides he’s in love with Doreen, and chaos ensues when he won’t take “no” for an answer. The three-part story is pretty good, but it’s elevated by the presence of Brad. The final issue in the collection is drawn by Jacob Chabot and takes places inside Doreen’s dreams, and it’s weirdly educational – Doreen spends three pages teaching Count Nafaria how to count using binary. It’s a pretty good story, but it’s sadly lacking Brad.

Henderson does her usual top-notch work on the book, as she gives us a New York full of weird characters and interesting people. She’s still not great at action, but she makes up for by drawing all kinds of strange things perfectly, from Quoggoth to the Mole Man’s monsters. She adds so much personality to Doreen and the people around her that the jokes land better – they’re funny enough on their own, but Henderson’s use of body language makes the words come alive in your head, because you can imagine the characters reacting exactly the way they do. It’s why the dating issue works so well – Doreen’s reactions to her friends’ suggestions are wonderful, and the two pages where she goes on dates are terrific, too, mainly because Henderson repeats a joke with variations, making it funny each time. Henderson gets to draw one of the grossest panels in Marvel history, too, so there’s that. Chabot’s art is very nice, too, and it’s clever that he was the guest artist on an issue that takes place outside the “real” world, because his difference in style can be chalked up to this being Doreen’s unconscious. I don’t know if they planned it that way, but it was pretty clever.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl might have bad names for the collections (I don’t mind the puns, but I do mind that the collection titles have absolutely nothing to do with the contents!), but it’s still a fantastic comic. As I noted, I don’t have any idea how this style of comic is selling for Marvel, but I do hope that North and Henderson keep working on Squirrel Girl, because it’s pretty danged keen!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

img026Bedlam by Greg Hollingshead. 388 pgs, St. Martin’s Press, 2004.

Bedlam is a strange novel, one that has a lot on its mind but never quite comes together. It’s based loosely on the true story of James Tilly Matthews, who was incarcerated at Bethlem and other places from 1796 until his death in 1815 (in the novel, he’s still living in 1818), and his relationship with John Haslam, the apothecary at the hospital. Matthews has been diagnosed, back through the centuries, with paranoid schizophrenia, and his life has been mined by writers for a while, as he believed that a gang of criminals was using what he called an “air loom” to manipulate his thoughts. Naturally, this is great stuff for fiction, so Matthews has had a small cottage industry rise around him (someone even built an Air Loom!). Hollingshead tells the story using three different first-person narrators – Matthews’s wife, Margaret (it’s not clear if she existed or not), Matthews himself, and Haslam, who take turns at different periods over twenty years explaining what’s going on. Matthews is in the asylum because, he claims, he’s a political liability to high members of the government, and Haslam comes to believe him, but one of the weaknesses of the book is that Hollingshead is far too coy with that entire thread. He’s not just writing a political thriller, of course, so it’s not too important, but Matthews teases Haslam for years about why he’s being held, and Haslam’s reaction to the answer seems ridiculously melodramatic, and I’m not even sure if we got the entire reason. I get that Dickens, for instance, wrote obliquely often to avoid embarrassing people who were still alive, but Hollingshead is under no such restrictions, but he seems to write that way. It’s a frustrating chunk of the book.

Hollingshead isn’t just writing a plot-driven story, though, so there’s a lot of other stuff in the book, as well. Mostly it concerns the nature of madness, the effects of imprisonment, and the limits of power. It can be fascinating, as Hollingshead gives us three interesting and different main characters. Margaret, naturally, is the practical one – she doesn’t care about Matthews’s gang or Haslam’s attempts to figure out what’s going on in Matthews’s head, she just wants her husband back. She lives in Jamaica for several years in fear of the government, and Hollingshead does a good job introducing the notion of slavery and its similar effects to imprisonment of the insane. He also delves into the actual idea of insanity and what the best way to handle it is – Haslam comes to understand that Matthews isn’t a threat to anyone, but he can’t release him, not only because of what he knows, but because Matthews is, in fact, not able to live in the outside world without a great deal of attention. Of course, the king at the time – George III – had his problems, as well, and the fact that the government is behind Matthews’s incarceration brings up the idea of the powerful being immune to the injustices those without power are forced to suffer. Haslam struggles to figure out a way to make the insane more comfortable, because he knows he can’t cure them, while other forces are pushing for a new kind of asylum, one that is more lenient in the treatment but, according to Haslam, doesn’t make any progress in trying to get them able to face the world. He is a strangely sympathetic figure, even though he’s cast as the “villain” of the book, because he knows that Matthews doesn’t belong in Bethlem, but he doesn’t try hard enough to get him out, and Matthews suggests it’s because he wants to use Matthews to further his own fame. It’s a conundrum for Haslam, one he never quite solves.

Hollingshead’s prose is thick and meaty – it feels like it could have been written 200 years ago, as he uses a lot of allusions and ellipses to obscure the meaning, even though it’s not a particularly difficult book to, you know, read. It’s a weird book, because of Matthews’s delusions – Haslam often treats them as real, and Matthews’s visions of members of the gang possessing people in the asylum is creepy, even though we know it’s all in his head. Hollingshead shifts easily from this odd fantasy world to the more mundane, which makes the book feel odder than it is. By using three narrators, Hollingshead elides some information, which is a strange trick that never quite works – Haslam’s wife is sick, for instance, but remains in the background, while his relationship with his children and theirs – especially his daughter’s – with Matthews (nothing creepy, I assure you) is almost passed over without comment. The time gaps in the story don’t necessarily hurt it, but it means that Haslam, speaking in 1816, has to catch us up quite a bit on the previous several years (the narrations jumps from 1809 to 1816), and it’s an odd way to tell the story. The book kind of lurches along, and while it’s mostly interesting, it feels like it does meander occasionally.

Still, it’s an interesting topic, and Hollingshead does get the paranoia of the revolutionary/Napoleonic era down, especially in an England that was terrified of the populace doing to their royal family what the French had done to theirs. It’s not a great book, but it is a pretty decent one. I don’t mind that!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Well, that’s all I have for this month. I actually bought more trades than these, but some I didn’t feel like reviewing and others I just didn’t have time to do. And, of course, today was Wednesday, and I bought a shit-ton of big collections, to the tune of slightly over $300 (seriously – I bought 16 trades or graphic novels today). So I’ll probably review a few of those for the December post. We shall see.

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving if they celebrate Thanksgiving, and let’s all finish 2016 – which, yes, has been an unusually shitty year – strong!

24 Comments

  1. Damn, you spent a lot today (says the guy who has spent that much more than zero times this year!) (it wasn’t all one week’s stuff, though!).

    I got the Girl Over Paris in singles, and that Squirrel Girl trade (still gotta get the 2 issues where she crossed over with Howard the Duck, because I was a fool and dropped USG for that! A fool, I tells ya!), but shocker upon shocker, I didn’t read either yet.

    And I plan on stopping at the comic store tomorrow to get this week’s stuff and the new Previews, so anyone looking forward to us doing the usual, we’re on it! I’m on it, anyway. I have been looking at the online version.

    And since you posted this, the other post I was working on for today can wait until the weekend….

  2. Simon

    Wot, no Airwolf panels?

    – “the idea that Philippides actually saw Pan”

    Our Latin teacher told us that in Roman primary sources about wars, encounters with gods such as Mercury (or prophetic dreams involving them) were casually recorded. And that historians suspected they were code for receiving intel from informants such as spies or traitors.

    I idly wondered whether “seeing Pan” could be some Greek antecedent?

    – “as Warren discovers that [REDACTED]”

    Er, no SPOILER WARNING there?

    – “This is modern comics storytelling, of course”

    Well, we’ve had that 2003 report about Geoff Johns being told by Marvel his script had “too much story” and to make two issues from it. We’ve had the lack of pushback from fanboys, who kept buying that padded crud anyway. We’ve had said Johns exporting the ploy to DC, because why give suckers an even break. We now have some creators or “creators” using that trick even on their own comics, often after a WFH stretch at Disney-Warner.

    But thankfully, their commercial niche doesn’t represent “modern storytelling” as a whole, I don’t think.

    – “she writes young adult fantasy novels”

    Did you mean fantasy novels for teens? (A young adult being a person aged 18–24, natch!)

    – “Johnny Red […] 179 pgs”

    This was listed as 208 pages, so I take it you meant “179 story pages”? And since they tried to bypass reviewers by offering that trade before its finale was out, I’ve been waiting for reviews. Bring it on!

    – “It’s a gripping adventure […] and this is one of the best.”

    OK, sold! (Well, as a manner of speaking. Titan hasn’t added it to Diamond’s TRU/Star backlist, though they’ll sell you copies of #5 and #8 instead. So I guess I’ll have to wait for a relist in Previews.)

    – “probably the second-best writer of war comics, Chuck Dixon”

    Someone coughed. Maybe Glanzman, Vansant, Tardi, or Pratt? (Unless it was Kurtzman, Goodwin, Murray, or Mills?)

    – “According to my comics shoppe, the “new” Marvel isn’t selling very well”

    According to the terrible design of that UNREADABLE SQUIRREL GIRL cover, that’s very understandable!

    – “James Tilly Matthews […] his life has been mined by writers”

    And became a paradigm for the paranoid delusion of “the influencing machine”. (Though his poignant but funnier modern avatar is the cult Francis E. Dec.)

    – “sitting down to eat a good marble omelet”

    You tried the new marble omelet pan yet?

    1. Greg Burgas

      Simon: Well, Warren and Alice’s relationship was pretty much already heavily implied in the previous volume, so I didn’t feel the need to issue a spoiler warning. I do apologize, but it’s not really that big a deal. If there’s a big spoiler in something, I probably won’t even write about it, but if I do, I do warn you guys! I just didn’t think this warranted it.

      Bond’s novels are classified as YA. Usually that means teens, in book parlance. No, it doesn’t make much sense, but there it is. So yes, teens and slightly older are definitely the target audience.

      I’m assuming with Johnny Red they’re counting the covers and the title pages and such, but I don’t roll that way! There is a nice, brief history of the character in the back, so it’s not all wasted space!

      Re: Dixon. Yeah, I should have written “current,” because those dudes are all very good!

      Dang, that omelet pan looks sweet!

    2. Jeff Nettleton

      Add Don Lomax (Vietnam Journal and The Nam), Kanigher (about everything at DC), Kirby (read his Losers sometime), Will Franz (Iron Corporal, Lonely War of Willy Schultz, and other war comics at Charlton) and Gary Friederich (the one guy at Marvel who could write war comics). Vittorio Giardino did an excellent job with No Pasran!, set in the Spanish Civil War, though more about his Max Friedman trying to find a friend, rather than the war itself. Then, there is Dutch artist/author Marvano, who adapted The Forever War, with Joe Haldeman (based on Haldeman’s seminal sci-fi novel, based on his experiences in Vietnam), and Berlin-The Seven Dwarves, which Cinebook has reprinted. There is also Jean-Michel Charlier, who wrote the original Buck Danny (about an American military pilot, put both in the uSAF and USN, in different stories) stories, in Belgium, as well as Tanguy et Laverdure (about two French fighter pilots. They are more along the lines of aviation adventure; but, with a strong emphasis on combat, especially Buck Danny.

      1. Simon

        @Jeff: Also Scott Chantler’s TWO GENERALS, Scott Mills’s TRENCHES, maybe Eisner’s LAST DAY IN VIETNAM?

        I’d note that most of Charlier’s comics were published in magazines for kids and teens. (You should try his western series BLUEBERRY and his pirate series REDBEARD if you haven’t yet, though! And maybe some of his scouting series.) And if memory serves, Tanguy & Laverdure were originally intended as an English-Canadian & French-Canadian duo… as seen by a Belgian writer!

        Stepping into manga, there’s ex-soldier Shigeru Mizuki about WW2 (ONWARDS TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATH, SHOWA), Hideki Mori about China’s Warring States (BOKKO), Mihachi Kagano about Scipio vs. Hannibal (AD ASTRA), certainly more…

  3. fit2print

    If you aren’t a fan of war comics, well, then don’t check it out!

    (We’ll soon find out if I’m actually tech-savvy enough to have that quote appear in the proper format…)

    I realize this is just a throwaway line meant to elicit a chuckle but it hints at an intriguing question: exactly why aren’t war comics as popular as they once were (they were popular at one time, right)? Is it the enduring perception that they’re pro-war? Thinly disguised recruiting tools for the US military?

    I’ve been about as anti-war as they come since early adolescence and yet I grew up (in part) on a diet of Marvel’s “The Nam” and Don Lomax’s criminally underappreciated “Vietnam Journal” series (among other war-related Lomax titles) and I’ve eagerly consumed many of Ennis’s war-themed works, from “War Stories” and “Battlefields” to “Battler Britton”, “Flight of the Phantom Eagle”, “303” and “Fury”. All are pretty rock-solid narratives about warfare that do little, if anything, to glorify combat and yet the sense I get is that the ranks of war comics readers remain tiny to non-existent.

    There’s no question that, at least in the States, the popularity of cape-and-cowl comics (sadly) still far eclipses every other genre but while crime and SF comics, of which I’m also a voracious reader, have “recently” enjoyed something of a major renaissance, war comics are seemingly still in the doldrums. Considering the extent to which warfare continues to impact the world, one would think a greater number of writers of mainstream titles (beyond Tom King, I mean) would be grappling with it in their work. Not so. Such a pity, especially given (avert your eyes, Republicans) how much of the world’s warfare over the decades has been driven by US aggression and its colonial ambitions…

    Right. This concludes today’s sermon.

    Anyway, Greg, thanks as always for highlighting a title — “Johnny Red”, in this case — I might never have heard of if I hadn’t seen it here…

    1. Greg Burgas

      fit2print: I’m the wrong guy to ask (I know it was rhetorical, but still!), because I’ve always liked war comics! It’s possible that war itself isn’t as “popular” as it used to be (you know what I mean!!!), so war comics suffered alongside that, but as you note, it’s not like most war comics don’t show war as something fairly awful (I’m not sure if I’ve ever read a truly “pro-war” war comic). So I’m not sure what the deal is. But I’m glad I was able to let you know about a good one out there!

    2. Jeff Nettleton

      Well, part of it was the all but death of them by the 80s. Even DC gave up the ghost, putting Sgt Rock to bed. Their big heydays were the 50s (starting in the Korean War era) and the mid-60s, with DC. Vietnam helped kill it as a genre, as it was hard to do modern stories and World War 2 was no longer recent history. The fans of the 50s and 60s grew up with fathers and brothers who fought in the war and it was a big topic of movies. However, many war comics fans read only war comics and nothing else. When they dried up, so did that audience. Most attempts since then have been half-hearted, in terms of marketing. The Nam is great for the first 12 issues, then slowly gets watered down. Vietnam Journal was excellent and grittier, and Lomax didn’t have the restrictions that Murray did; but, he had a small publisher, the book was in black & white, and was hard to find in shops. Marvel was never particularly good at them (Atlas did better; but, they weren’t on the same plane as EC, DC or Charlton). Charlton published them almost to the end of their days; but, most fans these days have never heard of Charlton and, if they have, think they just did the superheroes that DC bought. Wayne Vansandt’s stuff has been at small publishers, like Caliber.

      DC tried reviving the Haunted Tank, set in modern wars; but, they didn’t really have the people to do it. The old war comics had writers and artists with military experience and you don’t find that much, anymore. The last generation that had much was the guys who broke in, in the 70s, like Starlin, Cockrum, Grell, Hama, and Engelhart (though he was a conscientious objector, working to get out of the Army). A lot of that generation equated war comics with being pro war, despite the anti-war tone of EC, a lot of DC’s (especially when Kubert edited them and Goodwin), Warren (under Goodwin). Ennis’ stuff didn’t get promoted by DC much, and he is now doing them at a smaller publisher.

      Simply, the audience went away when the comics dried up and later attempts went unseen by that audience and didn’t draw a new one. Heck, mainstream comics have drawn smaller and smaller audiences; so, you have a small subset of an already diminishing market.

      The UK has a long history with them and Japan has done a lot of manga, though more about the classical period than their more modern history. They have done them and some have been controversial (as have the movies they’ve done, on the subject). Europe has danced around with it.

      I’ve long been a fan, having grown up with them and collected them, along with just about every other genre you can name (though little romance comics) and had an interest in military history and adventure, based on a steady diet of movies. I attended college on a Naval ROTC scholarship and served as a commissioned naval officer, in the Gulf War era. You didn’t see The Nam in the PX, where I was, though I did once see an issue of Semper Fi. then again, I didn’t see much in the way of comics there, especially since the direct market became the main source for comics, in general. Also, the people I worked with tended to get their fix of that from techno-thrillers and men’s adventure novels, as well as action films. More people watched Schwarzenegger and Segal and read Clancy, than were likely to pick up a comic. Those that did tended to be superhero fans.

      I’ve long advocated a maxi-series for DC, using their war comics characters, in a separate reality from the superheroes, taking the war from beginning to end. You could do so much with it. About the last thing DC tried was the Sgt Rock: Lost Battalion mini, about the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (the Nisei). How many comic shops did you see that in?

      Dixon does his homework and has talked to a lot of veterans; but, he never served in the military, much like Tom Clancy. He does his research. A lot of writers and artists don’t and don’t want to put that kind of effort into it, especially for what is perceived as a small audience.

      It’w not the only genre under-served. Louise Simonson lobbied Marvel to get back into romance comics and try to market them the the Harlequin crowd; but, it fell of deaf ears. YA fiction was filled with that stuff, too. It was a chance to court a female audience and no one wanted to try it. Same old story.

      Eclipse also did some factual military comics, with two issue of Real War Stories. they were decidedly anti-war, and showcased things like Marine Gen. Smedley Butler, who wrote War Is A Racket, talking about how US Banking interests manipulated foreign policy, leading to military incursion in Latin America, in which he served. He said he spent more time, as a military governor, dealing with New York Banks and United fruit Co. than dealing with actual governing matters. The comics also highlighted training deaths and military medical malpractice (something I had tangential experience with), the atomic testing in the late 40s and early 50s (which exposed a lot of servicemen to radiation and fallout, leading to high rates of cancer) and other under-reported topics.

    1. Simon

      @fit2print:

      (fancy) <blockquote> quoted text </blockquote>

      (nancy) – “quoted text”

      I use the second one because it’s quicker and code errors can be unforgiving without a “Preview comment” button. Also, AJS’s styling for blockquote seems a little bizarro as it’s boldfaced (without special indentation, border, or background) and can feel more like an interviewer’s question than a quotation.

  4. Hal

    Civil War “Adventure”? Peculiar word to use I would think. Somewhat like “Holocaust Adventure”… Of course, I realize Dixon likely didn’t put much thought into that title or, more likely, didn’t see anything wrong in equating war tales with “adventure” although it would appear to lie uncomfortably with the more realistic historical take he is apparently using. You know if one takes the view that words are actually supposed to have meaning (despite the modish dumbfuckery which disregards that important truth. Literal means *literal* it doesn’t mean “figurative” and it doesn’t matter that dimbulbs don’t understand that to be the case, giving into them is pathetic and dangerous. Prescriptivist? “Elitist”? I’d rather be a prescriptivist “elitist” than a lazy-minded spoilt moron! Bwahahaha! I could call a spoon a “fork” but I wouldn’t expect everyone else to do so! *slow wink* Rant ends!).
    Ennis’s interest/obsession with war stories interesting and he tries to make them as “realistic” as possible but I do find there to be something vaguely (and sometimes not so vaguely) masturbatory about his, Dixon’s, and others’ modern war stories; “Yeah, we are trying to be realistic but… War… Phwoooaaauurghhh… OH GOOODDDD, I think I’m going to…YYEEEAAAAHHHH!!! That’s better!!!” Heh. It appears somewhat dubious to me. Now, this obviously a blanket condemnation of all war stories, far from it or even of war “adventures”, it is just that *these* particular kinds of war stories seem to me to be fundamentally morally dishonest on some level, often on the level of motivation. Apart from that, I find it hilarious that Ennis is so antipathetic toward superhero comic books (not that there hasn’t been tonnes of superhero garbage over the decades but hating the genre’s existence per se partly because it isn’t “realistic” is ludicrous and unimaginative) yet enthusiastic about writing “realistic” war fiction whilst staying away (mostly) from the foulest deeds committed in war and its aftermath (rape, hideously prevalent doesn’t appear to pop up f’r instance tho’ I must admit to only reading but a smattering of his war stuff as I don’t like it). The worship of the “soldier” can get in the way of looking at the harsher and darker side of the military and *some* of those who serve (that is not to be understood as referring to all soldiers et al as that would be ridiculous and harmful, tho’ the *some* should make that clear) and it that is more than problematic, in my eyes.
    I don’t really expect many (any?) to agree with me but I have found those things disturbing and irritating for some time and this post prompted me to vent. Ahem! Very good post as usual, Greg!
    Regards, Remy…um, Hal

    1. Greg Burgas

      Hal: As these are previously published stories packaged together, I’m not sure if Dixon named the book or if Dover did when they put them all together. I agree that “adventures” is a bit odd, but I’m not sure if we can lay it at Dixon’s feet.

      However, I think “adventures” is closer to what these writers are going for than you think. Part of the appeal of war has always been the adventurous part of it, which politicians sell to gullible young men, and I think Ennis and Dixon do a decent job showing the “good” aspects of war – the adventures, if you will – before undercutting that with the horror. Perhaps that is masturbatory, as you so – ahem – eloquently put it, but war has always been tough to create in fiction because of the “attractive” aspects – how do you show the horror without also showing the camaraderie and the bonding among the soldiers and the excitement of searching for and/or avoiding what you think are the “bad guys”? It’s a conundrum few writers have been able to solve, but I don’t think it negates war stories as a valid thing to do.

      Ennis, in particular, tends to not shy away from the deplorable behavior of soldiers, even if it’s not the main point. His protagonists are almost always decent men, but that’s the nature of fiction, but he has brought up the horror that civilians and even combatants can suffer – he did write a story specifically about the Night Witches that touched on rape in the military, if I recall correctly. He definitely admires soldiers, but I don’t think that blinds him to the bad stuff. But he also doesn’t dwell on it too much, which perhaps he should. I’ve probably read more than you, but I certainly haven’t read every war comic he’s ever written, so maybe he does address it more in those I haven’t read.

      Thanks for the nice words!

      1. Simon

        @Greg:

        Ennis evoked war rapes in “The Night Witches” as you recall, and showed them in “The Last German Winter”. (As an Alan Moore fan, I’m supposed to remember these things!)

        @Hal:

        I’d suggest you borrow Ennis’s WAR STORIES VOL. 3 (2016) from your library to assess his work in that genre. It’s a great one and it’s got a plane story, a tank story, and a footsoldier story (the aforementioned “Last German Winter”, about German civilians bumped by the Russian advance into a SS patrol).

        Plus some of that prose Alan Moore praised: “I’d heard metal screech and men bawl, seen skin burn away from muscle, watched blazing streams of gasoline rush past on floor and wall and ceiling. And now it seemed like something from a dream. Maybe that was why I kept on going. Why I climbed aboard an aircraft again, having witnessed one become a funeral pyre.”

        1. Hal

          Thanks for the recommendation, I doubt I will but I appreciate the thought. (And apologize for allowing what was meant to be a more general comment to devolve into a rant about not liking Ennis’s tone or the narrowness of his views – that’s from *my* perspective, of course!)

      2. Hal

        Some interesting observations there, Greg. I could give Dixon the benefit of the doubt if he wasn’t responsible for that title as you posit, you are quite right to point that out. Although Dixon’s work often rubbed me the wrong way when I used to read it, sometimes in ways divisible from the mediocrity that ran through it like fat through a bad cut of meat.
        As I imply in the rantommemt I don’t question the validity of war stories per se, I have read and seen (and enjoyed) more than a few but it’s easy to stray into dangerous ground and certainly in some modern stuff from both semi-delusional war lovers/nostalgics and those with a more nuanced approach there is the reanimated corpse of certain notions of manliness that really should be consigned to the dustbin of history. (Apropos if absolutely nothing, there is an enquiry into historical abuse concerning soccer clubs at the moment and a troglodyte stated that those who were allegedly abused were not “real men” as they did not when older track down their alleged abusers and “sort them out”, at the root of such moronic ignorance is I think the same foolishness that haunts even some of the more complex modern military-oriented modern war stories. Now, yes, my disgust and horror with much of humanity at present shadows this but I don’t think it a complete distortion) It’s those who repeatedly stroll through the charnel houses of war that I find somewhat distasteful and in Ennis’s case I have to admit that reading a few of his war-based stories was more than enough; honestly, although I have half-liked some of Ennis’s work in the past, I always found and still find much of his attitudinizing specious, self-loving (much like Warren Ellis or – outside the comic book world – Richard F**king Dawkins! It isn’t necessarily about beliefs, it’s about a slightly repellent *attitude*. As much as I admire Alan Moore, he can obviously be as annoying and guilty of arrant self-serving, oddly sophomoric bullshit as the aforementioned even if he does have a sense of humor about it and even tho’ those fanboys who ignore his achievements or ridicule his every utterance are clods…not that their opinions matter to him one whit!), and silly.

  5. toothpaste

    This may have been brought up here, or discussed to death elsewhere, but Ennis’s penchant for war stories is totally understandable when you realize that he grew up in a war zone. If I’m not mistaken the Troubles were in full swing for much of his youth in Belfast (and sadly may resume in some part due to Brexit). Has he ever written about that?

  6. Simon

    Some more war comics: Warren Ellis’s CRÉCY, and maybe Frank Miller’s 300?

    @Greg:

    Note that Tardi too is a current war cartoonist (though untranslated for now), as is Vansant (though nonfiction for now). So, wouldn’t your contention for Dixon be “second-best current writer of anglophone war fiction”?

    @toothpaste:

    “Ennis was born on January 16, 1970, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He was an only child, and he and his parents moved out of Belfast to the suburban town of Hollywood when he was just a toddler. Ennis told the Comics Journal in 1998 that “there are no tales of childhood trauma that explain the horror of [his published work]. Nothing out of the ordinary.” This may be a classic understatement, for during the time of Ennis’s childhood—and through to the 1990s—Northern Ireland was the site of ongoing violence between Protestants and Catholics over access to political power. Both sides formed paramilitary organizations (civilian fighting forces) to fight for their cause, including the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Irish Republican Army (IRA), considered by many to be a terrorist group. Violence, including bombings, assassinations, riots, and shootings, was a regular part of life in the region. Those who were religious tended to get drawn into the politics of the area, but Ennis, raised in a family that did not believe in God, managed to avoid taking sides. In many of his later stories, however, Ennis expressed scorn for organized religion, which he often depicts as fueling violence, rather than preventing it.”

    More (including a jolly account of Ennis’s TRUE FAITH, a graphic novella only Grant Morrison and moi admit to having read, apparently) @ http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/culture-magazines/ennis-garth

    1. Greg Burgas

      Simon: No, I like Dixon more than Vansant. And I wasn’t sure if Tardi was still cranking stuff out, because the translated stuff seems to have slowed. I might actually put Dixon above him, too, because despite the beautiful art, I haven’t loved his World War I stuff – it’s fine as a recitation of what happens, but I didn’t think the drama was dramatic enough. COME AT ME!!!! 🙂

  7. Simon

    @Greg: See how war makes you violent?!?

    This reminded me I’ve never read Ennis’s 303. (Wary of another gross-out farce at Avatar, and failed to follow-up on reviews.) Looking it up:

      “Ennis’s other claim to fame, besides dialogue, would be his interest in war comics. Rather than taking a jingoistic or pro-war stance, Ennis generally treats war as something to be despised and soldiers as people to be honored. […] It’s hard to find comics that are better than Ennis at his best, and if you want Ennis at his best, you need to be reading his war comics.” — David Brothers

    * (w/ 1 page) http://comicsalliance.com/originals-garth-ennis-dialogue-hitman-303-war-comics-creator-owned/
    * (w/ 3 pages) http://www.warrior27.net/2011/03/fyc-replay-garth-enniss-303.html
    * http://old.brokenfrontier.com/reviews/p/detail/303-6

    Until JOHNNY RED is relisted, make mine 303’s Star code OCT063166, heh.

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